Protective Brownies Premium PD Recipe

In 2010, using what I had in my pantry, I created this quick-to-mix pan of dark chocolate breakfast brownies. It quickly became, and remains, a fan favorite. These fuss-free brownies have supported the Protective Diet Community through sugar detox and The Microbiome Population Project. Since the development of this recipe It has also been confirmed that cacao is neuro and cardio-protective and multiplies our healthy resident microbes. And, as if that wasn’t enough, the aromatherapy of chocolate baking reduces ghrelin (hunger hormone) production causing a satiation response shown to reduce appetite. Whip up a batch and read more about the exciting benefits of protective cacao included at the bottom of this slimmed- down, anti-aging recipe.


  1. The BB recipe is great! I have used canned pumpkin and sweet potato as well as IPing raw SP and all work wonderfully. I have also traded out oat flour with WWW and all methods turn out very tasty no matter what. Yum!

  2. I made these in 2015 but took a little break. didn’t have a can of pumpkin so substituted 2 c of sweet potatoes as recipe suggested. Took them out of oven five minutes early cause I like mine a little on the gooey side. Of my gosh, didn’t remember them being this good. I also cut some tiny squares and put in freezer like Julie suggested. Cant wait to try them.

  3. Julie,
    Several years ago, I used Xylitol in a brownie recipe and promptly had diarrhea. I threw the entire 9 x 13 pan of brownies out. In small doses I can tolerate it as in a couple of packages here and there and gum with Xylitol. I usually use Maple syrup or Sucanat as a sweetener when baking. I am so hesitant to use anything other than these when baking for the above reason. Does Erythritol have the same effect when used in a larger (¼ c. – ½ cup) quantity?

    On another matter, I’ve never been diagnosed with IBS, however, I do have digestive issues. NO MATTER WHAT I EAT. I have been plant-based for about 16 years. I would love to get to the bottom of this. Beans for sure cause problems. I can eat breakfast after nothing since dinner and then as soon as I have lunch, Bam! Can you help?

  4. I didn’t think this recipe could be any better – but lately I’ve been replacing the pumpkin with 2 large ripe bananas and ½ cup of yogurt. I make muffins (makes 7) and bake for 22 minutes. Let cool in pan then remove for perfect cupcakes! Light and fluffy and I’ve been topping mine with cream cheeze frosting. A favorite with the nieces!

  5. I made these last night for the first time. They are fantastic! I am a little confused by all of the comments about substitutions, etc as they are perfect! Nice and chocolatey but they are satisfying as a meal. Thanks!

    1. I feel the same way. Glad you found them as delicious as I do. I think some people just love to sub ingredients, tweak directions and write about it. Sorry if their comments were confusing.

  6. Honestly, I cannot remember if I had made these previously or not. I do remember cooking a brownie centered on black beans. You should have seen the looks I got with those. I told my son I was cooking brownies and he said, “Dad are these your brownies?” LOL.

    Followed the directions, after reading all the way through, as Julie cites. I used pumpkin for the first time instead of sweet potato. Put in a 9×13 Pyrex and slide it in the oven for 30 minutes. When I took them out of the oven, I left them cool for 15 minutes, probably a bit longer before I decided to cut them into 9 squares.

    However, when I made the first cut, I noticed the center of the brownies were a bit goofy, as if the center of the brownie hadn’t properly set up while cooking. It was a bit disheartening, as the flavor was wonderful.

    Posted on FB, some mention to cook for a few minutes longer or turn them into waffles. the flavor was great and the brownie filling this morning for breakfast. I will give it another try and see how it goes.

  7. NEW IDEA! I made half the batter – I substituted the pumpkin for yogurt and used my ceramic coated waffle iron. Half the original batch makes 2 perfect Belgium waffles. I ate mine with a sliced banana. SO GOOD! When the nieces come over – this will be breakfast!

  8. I’ve been eating these every day, so I thought I should post a review! These are HEAVEN! What I love the most is that every single bite is pure bliss, but when I’m full and finished, I don’t obsess about them for the rest of the day! So much different from their sugar-filled counterpart.

    I always use the 2nd main ingredient option, the one in the notes. I bake the ingredient in the oven, until they are caramelized and I think the brownies taste so much better this way. Also, I use half cocoa powder and half dark cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa, which is a mixture of regular cocoa powder and dark cocoa powder.), which makes the brownies super rich and delicious.

    I always double the recipe because my 12 yr. old son and I fight over them. LOL. I put them into a 9×13 glass pan, without any parchment paper and cook at the same temp and for the same time as the recipe calls for. I cool them, but while they are still very slightly warm, I put the cover on my pan and put them into the fridge to chill. The brownies are super moist this way, but not soggy. They taste like a rich, chocolate cake! I top mine with frosting (after they have chilled and then I chill them with the frosting) and fresh raspberries.

    The frosting, I make with 1 large and 1 small sweet potato, baked until caramelized and cooled (peel before making the frosting), 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder, 2 Tbsp. Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder, ½ c. erythritol, 1 tsp. vanilla extract and about 1 ½ cups of frozen berries. I love cherries or raspberries. Throw it all into a high-speed blender until well blended and then frost your cake…….brownies! 🙂 Sinfully delicious!

    Who needs sugar and fat???? These are BOMB!!

  9. I love these and now add cacao nibs to the batter after I mix in the “liquid”. I figure about half a cup of nibs. I love the texture that way. Such a great treat with Amys Chocolate Sauce as “icing”. One of my favorite treats.

  10. During my detox period I kept a steady supply of brownies in my fridge and still managed to lose 8# that first month. It’s a PD Miracle! After a few months, I tapered off making it and probably haven’t had it for at least 5 months as of today. Made a double batch using my glass 9×13 pan (eliminating the parchment paper as someone who commented here suggested and she was right, no sticking), and once again, I have the rich chocolatey goodness back in my life. This is truly a recipe to keep in your fridge/freezer for those moments when you just want to have something sweet that’s baked and not a fruit.

  11. Made these today for the first time with my daughter and they came out really good. The texture is to die for. I was cutting them up and I hesitated to lick the knife thinking they were off plan. Decadent!

  12. Just happened to have all of the ingredients so I hopped out of bed and made these in a jiffy yesterday!!! Super easy, quick and filling. And dense!! Perfect little breakfast with a banana. I have yet to make any frosting, but I plan on it. 🙂

  13. Trying these for the 2nd time and they still taste terrible! What am I doing wrong? The only ingredient I substituted was the stevia! Maybe I should try sweet potato instead of pumpkin? I’m determined to figure it out cuz guilt free brownies are too good a thing to give up on! Any help or suggestions would be welcome!

    1. I’m in love with this recipe! I’ve been making them for over four years and never posted a review! Shame on me. I’m here say this is my favorite PD recipe. Rich, delicious and so satisfying! The texture is moist. They are perfect and fudgy baked as suggested. I like to bake as muffins to have on hand in the freezer for chocolate emergencies. They come out good bake as “cookies” using a cookie scoop and baking for 10 minutes. They taste great made just as the recipe is written. I do seem to prefer using sweet potatoes, it’s a little sweeter. Lately I’ve been enjoying the addition of fresh cranberries before baking. Try them topped with PD Powdered Sugar. Just try them!!

  14. These brownies are unbelievable! I make them in a glass pie pan and don’t have to bother with the parchment paper. A very healthy breakfast of oatmeal, pumpkin and applesauce! Doesn’t get much better than this!

  15. I make these at least three times a week and love them! I don’t use e sugar or stevia, so have tried modifying the recipe slightly to decrease the bitterness of the cacao. Sometimes I use sweet potato, but usually I use canned pumpkin as directed but double the sauce and use one mashed banana. Another time if I have no applesauce, I use an apple, put it in the Vitamix with a frozen banana and puree it all. I have done it all in the food processor too but then there are small pieces of apple in my brownies, which I don’t mind at all. I have used up to three bananas, the more bananas the gooier the brownies. To fix this, I now bake them in a 9X13 pan for about an hour at 375.

    Oh, and I also like to add a teaspoon of almond extract!

  16. I will try these again. Tasted raw so probably need to cook longer. Used powdered cocoa second time. First time used xylitol and cocoa powdered. Bought cacao powder yesterday. Third time hopefully a charm.

  17. I made these for the first time this morning, and, oh. my. gosh. They are soooo good! Not too sweet, and very filling. I also subbed stevia instead of erythritol, using ¼ tsp. of the powdered stevia (no fillers or additives), and I did not find the pumpkin taste to be noticeable at all. Of course, I love pumpkin, so maybe it’s just me, but dh and I loved them. Next time I’m going to try a swipe of Chia Seed Jam on top. Thanks, Julie, for a great recipe! This one is a keeper.

  18. LOVED these! I can’t taste the pumpkin at all and I was SURE I was going to be able to. Creamy, fudgy goodness. Totally getting my chocolate fix with these. Thanks Julie!

  19. Oh my. I never, ever dreamed I’d be eating brownies to get healthy. These are so good and I am so excited that my taste buds are changing. Frankly, I am not a chocolate lover and brownies have never been my favorite. But, these brownies are fantastic. Thank you Julie.

  20. Julie, I am digging the brownies! Just made them a second time, following the directions this time. First time I could not find cacao powder and substituted a 100% cacaco bar. The end result, too bitter and I probably used too much of the bar. Now that I have a local cacao powder source I would like to make these on a regular basis, but I would like to make them for my wife and son. Both tried the first batch and weren’t impressed. My son tried a bite from the second batch and didn’t really like it. Of course this is coming from two individuals who still haven’t broken thru the sugar/sodium barrier and their tastebuds require more of both.

    I on the other hand think these brownies were pretty spot on when it comes to what I used to know about brownies. The consistency and texture were great. These brownies were very moist. The top looks dried out, but those looks are deciving as it does not take away from this chocolate experience.

    I noticed a huge difference using the cacao powder. Can’t say I would recommend the cacao bar as a substitute (little did I know it contained oil…sorry, that was my mistake). The flavor is sweet, but not so that it would get those tastebuds fired up, desiring more sugar/chocolatey taste. On that note, what would you recommend if I were try and make then sweeter for my family? More Erythritol or substituting cacao powder for sweetened cocoa powder? I was leaning on adding more Erythritol. Any suggestions?

    Overall a wonderful brownie experience! This is yet another recipe that goes in my PD box. I am actually going to share this batch (what’s left of it) with some of the ladies I work with who love to cook, but are also dieting. They love the sound of 88 calorie (that’s 2 points BTW) brownies. Hopefully my baking won’t let them down and your brownies turn out to be golden. Thanks again for the wonderful recipe!

  21. Hi,
    I made the breakfast brownies with Erythritol today too and I liked them a lot. I couldn’t taste the pumpkin either. I cooked them a little longer too. Another winner… Thank you Julie Marie.

  22. To be honest, I had to add like 20-30 drops of stevia to mine before it was sweet enough for Junior and I. Perhaps we’re not “reprogrammed” enough yet, since we’re only on Day 18. Not sure. Also, the texture was pretty good, but the pumpkin flavor came through a little more strongly than I’d like in a brownie. I would make them again though, I was thinking about maybe adding 1 more Tbsp of cacao or something, to amp the chocolatey-ness and drown the pumpkin a bit more.

    1. I’m not sure about the adjustments many people have made to this recipe using stevia. It might have cause the pumpkin flavor to be more prominent and also changed the texture. If you can get your hands on some Esugar and make the recipe as it was written, you will not taste the pumpkin.

  23. Amazing, amazing, amazing! I never thought I’d see the day when I was eating a brownie on a Protective Diet! And I sure didn’t think that it would taste so good, but not stir up any crazy sugar cravings. That seems too good to be true!

    I didn’t have erythritol, so I used ½ tsp liquid stevia. Next time, I’ll probably cut back on the stevia just a little bit.

    Thanks for another delicious recipe, Julie!

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